An area full of talent: Blair Milo, Indiana’s first Secretary for Career Connections and Talent, talks about the West Central 2025 talent dashboard chart during her presentation on Monday at the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
An area full of talent: Blair Milo, Indiana’s first Secretary for Career Connections and Talent, talks about the West Central 2025 talent dashboard chart during her presentation on Monday at the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
The Wabash Valley Monday became Indiana’s seventh 21st Century Talent Region.

“We are designating West Central 2025 as a 21st Century talent region, which means they have built and begun to implement a plan for attracting, developing and connecting talent across the region,” Blair Milo, Indiana’s first secretary for career connections and talent, said Tuesday morning at the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

The West Central 2025 plan targets population growth, increasing educational attainment and increasing economic opportunities to raise the median household income to 85 percent of the state’s average.

Chamber President Kristin Craig said the plan aims to attract talent to universities and businesses to help bring the region’s population decline from 6.76 percent “to a zero percent decline.”

The region, which includes Vigo, Clay, Sullivan, Parke, Vermillion and Putnam counties, has a population of nearly 224,000.

The plan for talent development is to increase educational attainment to 34 percent, up from 30.4 percent, Craig said. The goal also is to increase average household income and earnings to $36,662, up from the current $34,995.

The region’s average entry level wage is $9.51, with an average hourly wage of $19.10.

“The goals are by the end of this year to complete (collection of) data for the plan. Then by 2025 to have those goals complete,” Craig said.

The plan shows which agencies are currently working to meet the plan’s goal. Those include Accelerate West Central Indiana Economic Development which targets business development, as well as the West Central Indiana Economic Development District. Higher education institutions such as Indiana State University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Ivy Tech Community College also are involved.

“The plan is not to duplicate or replace any current effort, but it is to add another layer, another way to bring all these entities together,” Craig said. “It is a road map.”

Via an online presentation, Elaine Bedel, secretary of the Indiana Destination Development Corp., which started July 1, said the regional talent designation is “to identify issues and make plans on how to resolve those issues.”

Bedel said the new development corporation’s mission “is to promote, brand and tell Indiana’s authentic story to help attract and retain business, talent, students, as well as visitors.” The corporation will work with all regional talent regions in the state to “help amplify and give a stronger voice to what is happening in each of these regions.”

Dottie King, president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, said the region’s two main challenges are population decline and per capita income. King said government agencies and higher educational institutions are working on like issues.

“How much better if we come together and realize, if we think about this together as a collective problem, we will more quickly arrive at solutions,” King said. “There could be resources in one of the counties that another doesn’t have or a good practice is happening in a county that another one could share. That is the process that we are trying to develop here, to lift our entire region up.”

There are six talent regions remaining to be formed statewide, Milo said.

The state’s Office of Career Connections and Talent, with support from the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and technical assistance from CivicLab, launched the 21st Century Talent Region initiative.

The initiative aims to encourage local governments, businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits, and economic and workforce development partners to create and implement plans to increase educational attainment, raise household income and grow population in a given region.
© 2020 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.